It’s been a tough last few weeks for Buffalo.
After moving to 26-23-10 on Feb. 18 and sparking talks of a potential playoff push, the club has gone in a tailspin — just 2-8-2 since — and individuals are getting testy.
There are calls for Dan Bylsma’s job. GM Tim Murray has felt heat, especially in the aftermath of a nonexistent trade deadline. And after Thursday’s loss in Los Angeles — in which the Sabres failed to score, and only put 26 shots on Jonathan Quick — goalie Robin Lehner had a few things to say.
“This is a business. You’ve got to come out and play,” Lehner said, per the Buffalo News. “Otherwise, you get replaced. It’s simple. It doesn’t matter if we’re in or out. Everyone needs to be playing for their jobs. It’s a privilege to play in this league. You’ve got to earn it. We all have to decide if we’re going to help each other make a good last impression these last 11 games left.
“If you just pack it in, there’s a lot of eyes, a lot of eyes looking and people see. And it’s pretty obvious. If we want to stay in this league, you better get your head on straight.”
There are two ways to look at this.
The first? Those are the words of a guy that put forth a good effort — 34 saves on 36 shots — yet received no run support, and was tagged with the loss. Also, they’re coming from Lehner, who hasn’t been shy about ripping lackadasical efforts in the past.
In that light, this could just be Robin being Robin.
But there’s another way to look at this, and it’s damning for Bylsma.
Prior to this recent stretch, the Sabres could’ve hung their hats on their ability to keep the bad times from going too long. They had just two three-game regulation losing streaks this year, finding ways to eke out OT and shootout points. They also went 9-5-1 from Jan. 20 to Feb. 18, which kickstarted the aforementioned playoff talk.
And then they fell off a cliff, and never climbed back up.
If Lehner’s assessment is accurate, this team went from “dropping out of playoff contention” to “packing it in,” and quickly. Buffalo now has a legitimate shot at finishing as the worst team in the Eastern Conference, hardly the finish folks expected following last year’s 81-point campaign.
As such, it’ll be really interesting to see how the Sabres play for Bylsma over the final 11 games of the season.